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EDITORIAL: 15-31 July 2000

Is Bal Thakray above law?

Vitriolic writings of Shiv Sena supremo Bal Thakray that flared up communal tension in 1992-93 and subsequently caused irreparable damage to the cosmopolitan culture of Mumbai metropolis are once again in news. Not because the government as usual has seen to it that no action is taken against this law unto himself, but because the state government to the surprise of all and sundry tried to prosecute him, a move that no government could dare during the last two decades. This time round too the self-proclaimed messiah of Hindus and Marathas was saved in the nick of time by a central government more conscious to save its shaky coalition than service to justice and rule of law. A pliant judicial officer, as happens too often in our system, was found in the nick of time to declare the case ‘time-barred.’ It remains to be seen if the same criterion will be applied to lesser criminals in our country that is Bharat. This need not be the case since the Hawala diaries that failed to stand proof against many high and mighty, including the current home minister, those same diaries were sufficient to commit others to years in prison. A pliant judicial officer was found and he now serves as the head of the minority commission!

Several important aspects of the current flap over the attempted arrest of this paper tiger concern the common man. None, not even Bal Thakray himself can deny that his writings in Shiv Sena mouthpiece Samna have over several years, been openly vitriolic, abusive and aimed to create hatred and animosity against minority communities, particularly Muslims. In contrast to other politicians his conduct has always "matched his words."

His followers in the metropolis directed by him went on rampage, targetted Muslims and caused widespread loss of human lives on various occasions. More than 1000 people are believed to have been killed during those ghastly days in 1992-93. Muslim business establishments were ransacked and lit up in flames by Shiv Sainiks in an apparent show of bravado to destroy their economic prosperity that kept them on par with other communities at least in the metropolis. 

It was done at the behest of Bal Thakray and following his commands published in Samna. All these charges attract the provisions of the Indian penal code (IPC) and he should have been dealt with in accordance with the law long ago. Whatever the reasons, the Democratic Front government led by the Congress-I gave consent to the police to prosecute him. Though the police need not seek any such permission is clear, nevertheless this practice is largely prevalent in our country. The better part of this episode is that the union government put its weight behind its NDA partner and persuaded the provincial government to find a face-saving formula, threatening that the centre will intervene if there is a law and order situation in the state. It goes to the Prime Minister that this exercise was done with dignity. The only obvious victim, union law minister Ram Jethmalani, was done in by shooting his mouth even against the chief justice of India, a situation no government in India can afford. Certainly Ram Jethmalani wanted to pay back for Shiv Sena support he received to get into Rajya Sabha. Jethmalani’s personal loyalty prevented him from pondering over Thakray’s threat that not only Mumbai the whole of Bharat will be in flames if he is touched. At the end the meek paper tiger presented himself to the city’s Mayor to be taken to court. This threat alone is sufficient to haul him. 

Is Thakray above law? This question has been raised time and again. Yes, if Thakray’s threats and the authorities’ knee jerk response are to be believed. The Shiv Sena organ, Samna goes to town to damns itself and its chief in any court of law: ‘If Thakray is touched there will be a communal holocaust worst than the riots of 1992-93, admitting that yes we were behind violence and killings of hundreds of people and we are prepared to do it once again.’ This once again makes it clear that Shiv Sena was behind the communal carnage eight years ago and it threatens to repeat what it organized in the past. They seek to cover up the reasoning: "There will be an explosive fallout not only elsewhere in Maharashtra but all over the country. The ISI will try to exploit the situation leading to a communal flare up" cried Samna. The Shiv Sena did not elaborate that instead of being happy over his arrest why the ‘omnipresent’ ISI will get agitated over the arrest of its supposed bet-e-noir. Another secret that Samna may divulge: how it came to know of ISI plans? Is there any direct hotline connecting Thakray and ISI chiefs in Pakistan. 

This all points finger towards the only conclusion-If there is a communal flare up it will only be the doing of Shiv Sena. It has also directly admitted that it was only this party that caused the worst ever riot in the history of the metropolis-rather in the history of independent India. All this points to the extreme nervousness in Shiv Sena and its ‘tiger.’ Withdrawal of the security cover from its Shakha Parmukhs and other petty officials has put them to panic. It was not understood in the first place that why the people who create trouble are provided with official security cover?

Though the Shiv Sena supremo has been given anticipatory bail his arrest in the near future cannot be ruled out. Another flaw in this whole episode that should be noted here is that why on earth was Abu Asim Azmi dragged in this drama? Was he made a scapegoat in this case or for arresting a goon detention of an innocent becomes necessary (SUR).

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